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‘Batman’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 23, 1989

 


Director:
Tim Burton
Cast:
19950815
PG-13
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent
Oscars:
Art Direction


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Naah, you're not interested in "Batman." You're not going to let Warner Bros.' jillion-dollar TV campaign, Batman doodads, a Warner Books novelization and thousands of pudgy pedestrians in Batman T-shirts affect you, are you? So what's the deal? Is it good or what? Does it blow you away? Is it better than "Ghostbusters II"? Is it like the TV show? How's Jack? Is he funny? And what about Michael Keaton? Is he funny? How long are the lines? The answer to all these questions can be obtained, of course, by multiplying the square root of your point of view by the atomic weight of your after-work fatigue. Or by showing up at various Batcinema locations, where attendants in funny red suits and electric cattle prods are standing by right now.

Because this is going to be the Batblast of the summer, an exhilarating mix of cartoon lore (though not nearly enough for rabid Batpurists), screen presence (this is pretty much the Jack and Mike Show), psychological murkiness (though it could have used even more) and demented Gothic goofiness -- thanks to "Beetlejuice" director Tim Burton and writers Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren.

There's a cave load of crime-fighting Batprops too (in a tussle of toys with the Joker's chest full of lethal weapons). Keaton, wonderfully assured as mystery man Bruce Wayne, sports a muscular-chest-look body protector while expediting around Gotham City in that curvaceous Batmobile and Batplane. He's also pretty adept with zip-gun Bathooks that go scccccccchdoop! into rafters, walls and convenient fire-escape walkways, so he can swoop over or whiz around the kind of criminal lowlifes he tends to run into.

The lowliest and the funniest of them all is, of course, Jack Never-Fails-Ya Nicholson as Jack Napier, alias the Joker. He has a howling, cackling, plastered-on grin, his unsettling leer the gruesome result of an industrial mishap. "Jack is dead," this new-look villain tells his astonished partners-in-crime. "You can call me Joker. And as you can see I'm a lot happier!"

You'll be a lot happier too, especially if you appreciate Burton's macabre Zen of humor (watch out for that Joker handshake), the superb visual effects of Derek Meddings and John Evans, the Gothic-futuristic sets of Anton Furst and Gothic-rhapsodic score by Danny Elfman -- with perky Prince songs on the side. There's also a pleasing array of comic-book wildlife, especially villain maestro Jack Palance, slinky news photographer Kim Basinger (hot on the Bruce Wayne trail) and Joker moll Jerry Hall.

And, yep, you're looking at very long lines.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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